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Comparative penetration with pellets

by B.B. Pelletier

A reader named “Turtle” asked the following questions.

Wow, thanks for the elaboration on my suggestion. It propted me to sign on. I’ve been enjoying the review of past articles today and am wondering if you could offer info on basic penetration expected for .22cal Beeman Kodiak at various speeds. I was very surprised to hear the SS being used on pests as large as rabid dogs. Or how about a chart with prey size vs muzzle power recommendations.

Penetration varies with the pellet
Read the test report on Pellets vs Round Balls. I can’t say it any better than the pictures in that article show it. Clearly, round lead balls out-penetrate every pellet type that was tested. Only a solid lead pellet that out-weighed the round ball would penetrate deeper. However, is penetration what you want?

The problem with most pellets is they OVER-penetrate game and don’t leave enough energy inside. That is why they fail to kill. A cottontail rabbit is fairly easy to shoot through. So, for them, I would use a domed pellet in a large caliber like .22 or .25.

A squirrel is tough but easy to shoot through. For him, you want a pellet that will expand – and take head shots whenever possible.

Crows and grackles are very tough, their feathers act like a shield. For them, either use a domed pellet in a 20 foot-pound or stonger gun, or use a pointed pellet in a less-powerful rifle.

.177 is great on small pests
For very small game, such as mice and some rats, I would use a .177 wadcutter or even a hollowpoint if it was accurate enough to hit my target. Pest control shooters often use wadcutters for sparrow-sized birds inside large buildings. This is one place where .177 caliber and lower power comes into its own. You don’t want to shoot through the pest and then through the roof or ceiling! It’s best to stick to about six to eight foot-pounds for these jobs, so low power and precision accuracy is what’s needed.

I won’t publish a chart of game animals, but I’ll comment on the sizes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses hundreds of AirForce Talon and Talon SS rifles to kill pests all around the country. They shoot everything from small birds up to nutria, which is a water-loving ratlike rodent that infests the levees and marshlands around our country. Louisiana offered a $4 bounty for each nutria tail, which should tell you how much they’re despised. Nutria are 10-lb. animals.

Some airgunners hunt raccoons and woodchucks that grow up to the 20- and even 25-lb. range. For these, you should use more powerful airguns of at least 25 foot-pounds or better. Of course, if you can get a close shot, a lower-powered gun will work.

The state of Hawaii has an airport bird removal program in which egrets are the target. These larger birds are dangerous on runways; and, if they get into the hangars, they poop on the airplanes, which eats through the paint and thin metal skins, requires very expensive repairs.

Finally I come to the comment on rabid dogs. Pest removal services use airguns for these dangerous critters, because if they over-penetrate the animal the pellet doesn’t carry like a solid bullet will. So, pellet guns are safer for urban neighborhoods. For this work, only the most powerful and reliable airguns are used. The AirForce guns are called upon because they collapse and store in a small space until needed, but other powerful airguns like the Career 707 are also used.

Now, for Kodiaks
Regarding Kodiak performance…the Beeman Kodiak is a domed pellet, so it penetrates like one. In other words, not as deep as a round ball in the same caliber. However, the Kodiak is also extremely heavy, so it penetrates deeper than most domed pellets. In .22, it’s one of the leaders. In .177, it’s close to the Crosman Premier. In .20, the Premier is way ahead of the Kodiak.

The extra weight of the Kodiak makes it an effective long-range performer, too. Except in .20 caliber, it’s a leader in long-range performance, which includes both accuracy and penetration. The .20 is a great pellet, too, but it’s not as heavy as the others in their respective calibers.

Accuracy and shot placement mean more than penetration. Practice placing your shots until hitting the target is a given, and you can become a responsible airgun hunter.

14 thoughts on “Comparative penetration with pellets”

  1. Excellent article today! I have found by experience that the Logun Penetrator at 20 gr. works the best in my Talon SS .22 cal, for raccoons and woodchucks up to 20 lbs. I do however shoot at fairly close range. I usually shoot at about 8-10 on the variable setting since I discovered with a chrony that it apparently doesn’t significantly improve the impact force to go higher.

  2. can’t seem to log on as turtle again, but thanks so much for the suggestions B.B.P.

    I shoot the remains of clay pidgeons (to dime sizes) at 100 yds. at a local range w/ a talon set up w/ a Leapers 4-16×56 Accushot mildot, the acccuracy is amazing!

    But I had no point of refernce on power needed for responsable results.

    My ss is mostly used for indoor trigger practice. Thanks for your input too Doc

  3. It can take 5 shots sometimes a whiffelball on a string can take 7 consecutive hits in a light wind…and it’s on the bipod…on a bench…

    …and just amazing. maybee I’ll spring for a tin of match Kod’s and let you know what happens.

  4. I have used an RWS 48 in 0.177″ for over 10 years to hunt squirrel. I have found that up to 20 yards, pellet choice doesn’t matter. Flat nosed HN Match at a MV of 1150 FPS will completely penetrate the squirrel if no major bones are hit. I have recovered one such pellet, it showed only slight deformation, mainly from hitting a rib. I like to keep penetration to a minimum for safety.

    For longer range shooting, I use Crow Magnums. These are traveling about 950 FPS at the muzzle. Up to about 50 yards, they expand to limit penetration, usually found on the other side of the animal, just under the tough skin. At longer ranges, the pellet won’t expand and as such, tend to penetrate deeper, offsetting the greater damage from expansion. My longest shot is 55 yards, that squirrel dropped right there, being hit through the neck/spine.

    Since I limit shots to those which I have a good upper chest/neck shot, I have never had one escape. I have shot one, back with the crappy iron sights (RWS 48), in mid-body, ripping the liver and it craweled about 15 yards. But now with a scope, all shots are made with precision. I do about 10 times the practice now which makes hunting MUCH better. This is field practice, estimating range and adjusting the scope to suit.

    The largest animal I have taken is a raccoon, head shot with a Crow Magnum. I have brained a few skunks, always shoot these if they are seen in the daylight. Their skin and skeleton are weak, head shots take most of the head off.

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